Healing with Whole Foods

Man. Life moves fast. Did I ever fill you in on the Indiana doctor? Whoops.

Thank goodness My Man went up there. Here they were acting like radiation was the only thing that made sense given the prognosis. But the specialist in Indiana recommended just monitoring, no proactive treatment. If he doesn’t do any treatments, the chance of recurrence is 20%, but treatments at that point will be equally effective (over 99%) and the proactive treatments have their own dangers. Radiation has a 2% chance of causing cancer, and if that happened My Man would be dealing with some new kind of cancer, instead of this best possible kind. They don’t have long term data on the chemo yet, they know it can cause some heart problems, but other than that it’s an unknown. The doctor recommended chemo over radiation if My Man wanted to treat proactively, but like I said his top recommendation was just monitoring.

I distrust medicine in general, and had secretly favored the idea of just monitoring. But of course this is cancer we’re talking about and I was ready and willing to trust the doctors on this one. So I was very happy to have the specialist back up my instinct. My Man on the other hand is not happy. He wanted to do something, and after talking with him, I see his point. 20% chance of recurrence is low, but also high. 1 in 5 chance we will have to go through this all over again at some point in the next few years. Which sucks ass, for certain. But then again, 4 in 5 chance we won’t, and he will have never needed to assault his body with radiation or chemo.

Anyway, things have gotten back to normal around here. So normal in fact, cancer already seems like a book I read last month. So normal that all the good, healthy changes we made right away have fallen back into the dust. I told you I read a lot this last month right? Want to know what I was reading? The 653 page tome, Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford. That’s how I roll.

This was actually my second cover to cover reading of Pitchford’s classic. The first time around I was 23 and re-reading it made me realize how much this book set my standards for nutrition. He is absurdly extreme, and somehow, I’ve always liked that about him. At least you know where he stands. Which is for whole vegetal foods, and against animal products except in healing situation. Against fats and oils in any quantity, almost against extracted oils all together. His recommended daily intake for extracted oils is 1 teaspoon! This is the book containing my widely quoted recipe for “Sprout Salad” wherein you arrange three kinds of sprouts in concentric circles on a plate.

That’s it. That’s the recipe. Three kinds of sprouts on a plate.

Clearly the man is half crazy, and I guess I just love crazy people.

As you have probably surmised, we are a most pointedly carnivorous family. I have no compunction about eating animals, since that is just what they themselves do, seemingly without compunction. But I do really like a lot of what Pitchford has to say, and I generally agree with his opinions about healthfulness. He describes foods through both modern nutrition and traditional chinese healing terms. I am usually a very brass tacks kind of girl, and I’m honestly not sure why the “woo-ey” parts of this book didn’t turn me off. I guess when it comes down to it, under my brassy exterior, I do believe some woo-ey shit. Not that particular wooey shit, but I guess I feel like any traditional knowledge, having stood the test of time, has good stuff to offer.

What I like about the book is that the specific constitution of each individual body is given much credit. No food is a panacea and Pitchford gives great hedance to instinct. I like that as a general guiding idea. People seem to do well on all kinds of disparate diets, and I really believe in following our own instincts over the latest nutritional research. In fact, in the realm of nutrition, parenting or anything else, I say figure out what you believe, then find a book that supports it! That’s what most people do anyway, whether or not they cop to it.

Many of my own nutritional instincts were supported and shaped by my first reading of this book, including my excessive concern about high quality oils, my compulsion to include a green food in every meal, my preference for whole milk (although he doesn’t really endorse the use of animal products, he does discuss them), and my un-popular idea that fruit, nuts, soy products and all the supposedly healthy snack foods should not be eaten in quantity, and certainly not in combination (Pitchford recommends a mere six almonds per day and says fruit should be eaten alone, two hours before the next meal).

At any rate, I spent a month re-reading this weighty bible, making lists and plans. I wrote out my “ideal” diet, as well as the ideal for each of our family members, and then how I might combine these for a family plan. I felt inspired, I felt motivated.

Then I felt tired and munchy.

Oh well, I’ll get back on the healthy habits next week. My favorite way to read Paul Pitchford has always been with a cup of coffee and a cookie.

Occupy Your Food Supply

You might be wondering whatever happened to my Quiet Riot in light of last month’s jolting speed bump. I will tell you, it was not forgotten. Strange as it may seem, the Riot was one of my first thoughts. ‘Shit, there goes that idea…’ But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that in times of crises, having something external and good to put your energy into can be extremely helpful. Maybe the Riot would be the perfect anchor to get me through these hard times. I figured I’d give myself a month or so, then go easy, but not give it up altogether.

One of the positive things about this harrowing experience was that, rather than give me any crazy carpe-diem panic attacks that we were living our lives all wrong, it just reaffirmed to me that we are living the life that matters most. Although we fall short all the time, we are at least going the right direction, we are doing what we can.

Cancer is the industrial disease. Environmental pollution, chemical-based agriculture, denatured and processed foods, and the overriding ethic of Profit Makes Right– all the things I rail against– were given a big stamp of approval as worthy causes. According to the American Cancer Society, 44% (almost 1 in 2!) men will develop cancer in their lifetime, and 23% (almost 1 in 4) will die of it. Rates for women are respectively 38% and 20%. I know that the majority of cancers occur to older people (a shocking 4 out of 4 people die of something), but cancer in younger people is getting disturbingly common. Almost 40% of cancer incidences are people under the age of 65 (here). New studies are always linking cancer with all kinds of things, but they never make a big deal about it. It’s always sited as just a slight increase in likelihood. They never add the numbers together. Pesticides + refined foods + chemical additives + air pollution + sedentary lifestyle + continual low level radiation from electronics + off-gassing, PCBs, BPAs, BHT, DDT, and the FBI = 1 out of every 7 of you gentle readers will get cancer before the age of 65.

We have put the corporate world in control and, whoops, they don’t give a shit about us. In fact as My Man often points out, they aren’t even allowed to give a shit. As corporations, they are required by law to make money, at all cost. And they will. They will do anything they can get away with. They will scrimp and cheat and lie till their last breath, with which they will beg for bailout.

Though the real Riot for Austerity is about climate change and peak oil, my Quiet Riot was more broadly about lessening my family’s support of this system of corporate power that places no value whatsoever on anything but profit. Climate change and peak oil are the sharp, scary parts, but it’s quite a bit bigger that. It’s everything, and it’s already happening. It’s international human rights, it’s loss of wilderness, it’s the degradation of our family meal and social soul.

It’s cancer in 1 out every 2 men, and My Man is 1.

What better motivation towards focusing my efforts than such an intimate threat?

Strangely, after we got the almost glowing test results back and the over 99% cure rate, we both got very depressed. My Man felt it immediately, mine took a few days to set in. I’ve been feeling downright deflated. I have no energy or desire to do anything, let alone change the world. I haven’t been writing, as you know. But it’s not because I’ve been too busy kicking ass on my Riot, or being a good mom, or cooking extra nourishing foods, or getting our house really clean. Honestly, I’m not sure what the fuck I’ve been using up my days with. In between my reluctant and short-tempered parenting, I’ve just been laying around the house reading while my kids veged in front of dvds for hours at a time.

Partly I know we had just been holding our breath, not feeling things really for those two weeks of waiting, and the respite of good news and crisis averted finally gave us a chance to process everything. But also I think we had felt so motivated to noble and essential action at first, we were going to conquer cancer! And then when it turned out our efforts were not needed, there we were, standing around shuffling our feet. All dressed up with no place to go.

I am trying to be patient with myself through this low-energy phase. I know we’ve weathered a storm, and although it was quick and seems to have mostly blown itself out, it was the real deal, The Big One. We need to be easy on ourselves for awhile, allow for recovery. But there is a very fine line between going easy on yourself and slumping into a depressed lethargy of paper plates and glowing screens. After emotional upheaval, we need time to feel what we are feeling, to be sure. And then we need a pry bar to get ourselves up and moving again.

I’m hoping this malaise won’t last much longer, that I will soon have the strength to heft the pry bar. This morning I read about Homegrown’s Occupy the Food System and felt a refreshing spark of inspiration. My Man and I have been following the Occupy protests and it’s killing him not to be able to go to NY. He loves big, extreme action; I’ve always been the quieter homebody revolutionary, the change from within type. When I saw Homegrown’s article today, a little bell went off. I’m not sure what HG’s purpose is exactly, it seemed exploratory. They know they belong somewhere in this movement and are trying to figure out where. I wish I were feeling a little more peppy right about now, because I suddenly understood that all of us can, from our very own homes, Occupy Wall Street. And I don’t mean in any quaint, anecdotal way. We could effect a very real disruption of the corporate beast by simply refusing to feed it with our money. Imagine if everyone who supports the Occupy concept but can’t get to a protest, instead boycotted all corporations for a month. As in, really didn’t buy anything beyond absolute survival necessities. If enough people did it, even just a week could make an enormous statement!

I might do this on my own, incorporate it into my Quiet Riot. But that’s not what my mind’s eye is conjuring. I’m imagining it big, as a real, recognized, meaningful part of the Occupy movement. The other side of the protest coin. To be that, it would need critical mass. A thousand people look impressive waving signs in the street, but it would take many more thousand people to put a visible sag in that ever-frisky market erection. And although there have been successful boycotts of specific products and corporations in the past, would such a complete boycott be possible for a meaningful number of people? Even if the word could spread far enough, could enough people take such drastic measures? Seems impossible, but if we could…. Oh how they would squirm!

But, hey. Not me, man. I’m not leading this bull out. Surely someone else will get this idea, if they haven’t already. Right? Someone else will come up with a catchy logo and eloquent manifesto for the Occupy Corporate Boycott. I don’t really have to be the change, do I? Can’t I just tag along with someone else’s change?

And, not that I’m so brilliant, but why couldn’t they have called it Occupy the Food Supply? Is it really so hard to get a rhyme around here?